1/24/2013 11:17:00 AM Life after Graduation: Jaime DeLanghe
by Connie Bickman
Note: This column features "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email email@example.com - their email address must be included.
Jaime DeLanghe grew up all over the Midwest, Texas, and Nebraska, before moving to Cannon Falls. She said that by the time she got to Cannon in the sixth grade, she had already seen a lot of the country and met a hugely diverse group of people.
"My suburban block in Arlington, TX, featured families from Mexico, Kenya, India, the Philippines, and the deep Southern Baptist tradition," she stated. "I grew up around kids who didn't speak English as a first language; kids with grandparents living in the house; kids with parents with different skin colors; and kids with parents of the same sex."
This incredible diverse environment taught Jaime that there were many ways of seeing, and being in, the world.
"We moved to Nebraska, where I attended the fifth grade in a one-room school house (there was only one other person in my grade). The catastrophic shift from a culture where diversity was the norm to a culture that valued sameness was startling to me. I carried this shock with me throughout my time in Cannon Falls, but I also began to appreciate the closeness that comes with multi-generational history in a small town."
Jaime admitted, "Like most Cannon Falls kids, I spent invaluable hours driving around, doing a lot of nothing, reading, talking ad nauseum about the world, our town and our place in it. When I wasn't wasting time, I kept myself busy co-founding the Lantern (one of my proudest achievements), captaining the Knowledge Bowl and Speech teams, and acting in pretty much every single available dramaturgical endeavor - all the time trying not to come off as too much of a hippie-nerd."
She added, "The extremities of my experiences while growing up taught me that life was mine for the making, and that my calling in this world is to help people understand one another, on whatever scale I can."
A 2004 Cannon Falls graduate, Jaime currently works as a product manager, for Etsy.com. Her path has taken a few curves to get her to this point.
When Jaime graduated in 2008 from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT with a BA in English Literature, she was full of hope and aspiration. She had just received one of the most prestigious degrees in the country (albeit in English Literature), and had shaken the hand of the soon-to-be President of the United States, Barack Obama, who was her graduation class speaker. Soon after, she moved to the city of her dreams - Brooklyn, NY.
"Just as I was weaseling my way into the print industry, the economy completely collapsed and with it, what little hopes I had for my career. I spent a year in New York working at a cafe, serving several celebrities while planning my escape (Alaska was high on the list). The plan was to close myself off from the world, stock up on notebooks and write my own Walden."
The plan failed. Jaime ended up back in Minneapolis for a year, applying for English PhDs at the last minute.
"I didn't get accepted to either of the schools I applied to (Yale and Columbia), so it was back to the drawing board. Then my sister, Kim, and I applied and were accepted to programs teaching English in Korea. But, at the last minute, a fellow Cannon Falls classmate convinced me to move back to New York. She had a friend at Etsy.com and thought I should apply for a job."
Etsy promotes themselves as the world's handmade marketplace, with a mission to empower people to change the way the global economy works. Very small businesses and artists sell their products directly on Etsy.com, bringing heart, sustainability and fun to commerce.
"It sounded like an amazing place to work. I've never been opposed to taking insane risks, so I moved - without a job, without any money, with loads of student loans."
It didn't take long and Jaime was hired as a support agent at Etsy.com. She taught herself basic computer science so she could write rudimentary code in several languages, and took every opportunity to expand her career, working in subdivisions of Etsy's support structure.
"I established myself as a competent and intelligent addition to any team, and the opportunities have been virtually limitless. Being on the ground floor of a start-up company, which has almost tripled since I was hired, allowed me to expand my skill set and advance my career in ways that would not have otherwise been possible."
After a year or so working in support and policy, Jaime became more involved in product decisions, which for an online company meant building the website itself - what does checkout look like?; how do they sign up new sellers?; how do buyers find what they are looking for? etc.
Jaime's director and her mentor encouraged her interest and worked with the executive team to build out a new role for Jaime - associate product manager.
"Since I moved into this role, last February, I've become a full fledged product manager and have helped usher new Etsians into the associate product manager role."
Jaime continued, "I love the people I work with. I love the people who use and love Etsy. I love the autonomy and creativity involved in leading a diverse group of people toward the completion of a difficult and massive task. It's incredible to me that the decisions I make (whether it's the language on a landing page or the placement of a button) affect millions of people every day and allow sellers all over the world to make a living doing what they love."
Jaime admitted, however, that she always thought she would be a writer - "...in fact, I secretly still think that I might write that book some day. As I've grown into adulthood, however, I've found that there are many ways to express oneself and allow other voices to be heard.
"Today, I spend my time working for a company that believes we can change the way that commerce works on a global scale. Within that company, there are many disparate voices. I think of myself as a bridge between diverse ways of seeing the world. It's not exactly what I thought I would be doing when I took the infamous 9th grade skills survey, but I'm serving the same purpose in a different way."
Jaime's mom, Theresa, lives in Cannon Falls, and her dad, Jim, resides in Duluth. Her sister, Kim (25) lives in Hudson, NY, working on organic farms in the Hudson Valley and is extremely active in the food justice movement. Jaime's brother Bobby (22), is in Bennington, VT, finishing his BA at Bennington College and becoming an adept sculptor, designer, and architect.
"My parents always told me to find something I would do for free and then convince someone to pay me for it. They taught me that I could do literally anything, and empowered me to push myself toward that vision without judgement."
What does the future hold for Jaime? "I'd love to found my own company or enter a start-up at an executive level.